The Best Museums in Philly For Both Locals & Day Trippers | Philly Views

The Best Museums in Philly For Both Locals & Day Trippers

The Best Museums in Philly For Both Locals & Day Trippers

By Bernie Rodgers

It’s no wonder that Philadelphia is continually ranked as one of the best places to visit in the United States. With such a vibrant historical legacy, the city attracts countless tourists to its landmarks. But it doesn’t end there.

Philly’s become a cultural hub for food, drinks, nightlife, music and art. Everyone knows about the Art Museum as an iconic image for Philadelphia, but few consider the city’s other museums.

From toddlers to book lovers, there’s a museum for everyone to visit and expand their horizons. If you want to see a Marcel Duchamp installation, you can at the Philadelphia Art Museum. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can observe endless medical oddities, such as conjoined twins, at the Mütter Museum.

There’s no reason to be bored in this city if you’ve got a taste for history, art, or science. We’ve compiled a list of the best museums to visit in Philly for the day-trip tourist to the life-long native.

These Are The Best Museums in Philadelphia:

1. Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130
Phone: 2157638100

The Philadelphia Museum of Art was chartered for construction in 1876 for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It was completed in 1928.

The museum currently holds over 240,000 works, including European, American, and Asian art. Special exhibitions are held here each year, promoting it as a tourist attraction and asset for locals. While being one of the most-visited art museums in the world, it also is one of the largest.

Some of the most notable holdings include Marcel Duchamp’s “Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors,” a large “Bathers” by Cezanne and a Rogier van der Weyden altarpiece. Within the museum, there are also culturally-accurate rooms, such as an Indian temple and a medieval cloister.

2. Franklin Institute

222 N 20th St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Phone: 2154481200

Founded in 1824, the Franklin Institute is one of the nation’s oldest establishments devoted to science education and development. Many scientists have displayed revolutionary technology at this location. For example, the International Electrical Exhibition of 1884 was held here.

Also, the museum is an innovator in creating interactive, hands-on exhibits for visitors. Landmarks of these exhibits include a two-story, walk-through model of the human heart. Another is SportsZone, which uses virtual reality technology to illustrate the physics of sports. The museum hosts special exhibits throughout the year.

Another major highlight of the museum is its 79-foot domed screen in the Tuttleman IMAX Theater.

3. Academy of Natural Sciences

1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Phone: 2152991000

This is the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the nation. Opened in 1812, the Academy has sponsored countless expeditions and environment research endeavors. It has also collected over 17 million specimens.

Some of the special exhibits include Dinosaur Hall, which features fully-constructed replicas of prehistoric creatures, such as a Tyrannosaurus rex. There is also an indoor garden filled with dozens of different butterfly species.

4. Mütter Museum

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103

Established in 1863, the museum remains one of the strangest sites in the nation. The initial collection was donated by Thomas Dent Mütter in 1858 for biomedical research.

The range of 20,000 anatomical items are filled with medical oddities, such as conjoined twins, a 7’6″ skeleton, and endless other bizarre organs. Also, this is the only place in the world where the public can view slides of Einstein’s brain.

5. National Constitution Center

525 Arch St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
Phone: 2154096600

This 160,000 square-foot center explains the U.S. Constitution through exhibits, displays, and artifacts. A notable exhibit is the Kimmel Theater, which is 350-seat, star-shaped theater, featuring “Freedom Rising,” a combination of film and live acting that tells the story of “We the people.”

There are other hands-on attractions where you can give your opinion on Supreme Court cases and see life-size bronze figures of the framers of the Constitution. Most importantly, one of the only original public copies of the famed document is on display.

6. Barnes Foundation

2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130
Phone: 2152787000

Founded in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, the location moved from Merion to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012. The foundation owns more than 4,000 pieces, estimated to be worth about 12 billion dollars.

The works are primarily from the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modernist masters, with 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes and 59 Matisses. The collection also includes works by legendary artists like Picasso, Manet, Seurat and Titian. As a bonus, on the first Sunday of each month, admission is free from 10 am to 5 pm.

7. Rodin Museum

2151 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130
Phone: 2157638100

First opened in 1929, this location has the most Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of Paris. The collection of immaculate Rodin pieces were curated by Jules Mastbaum, an early film exhibitor in Philadelphia, in 1913.

Outside, there is a courtyard garden filled with bronze sculptures. Inside, there’s a collection of painting, drawings, and more sculptures.

8. African American Museum in Philadelphia

701 Arch St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
Phone: 2155740380

This is the first museum funded by a major U.S. city to help preserve and display the heritage of African Americans. Opened in 1976, it houses four galleries and an auditorium.

Major themes of the museum include the African diaspora, the Philadelphia story, and the contemporary narrative. “Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876” is the core permanent exhibit, telling the stories of notable African American figureheads based in the city, such as Octavius Cato and Richard Allen.

9. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

128 N Broad St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102
Phone: 2159727600

This location has served as both a museum and an art school since its opening in 1805. It was founded by artist and scientist Charles Wilson Peale and sculptor William Rush. There are original portraits of George Washington installed here.

The building itself, designed by Philadelphia-born architect Frank Furness, is considered a national historic landmark for its exquisite gothic design. Typically, exhibitions are held in the museum throughout the year.

10. National Museum of Jewish American History

101 S Independence Mall E
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
Phone: 2159233811

This Smithsonian-affiliated museum follows the history of Jewish people in America. It was founded during Philly’s frenzy of museum building for the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration.

There are over 20,000 artifacts, including Albert Einstein’s pipe and Steven Spielberg’s first camera. The five-story, 100,000-square-foot building includes a theater, a huge exhibit area, an atrium, and even a Center for Jewish Education.

Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna curated the selection and installation of the museum’s core exhibit.

11. Penn Museum

3260 South St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Phone: 2158984000

Formally known as the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, this museum features over one million artifacts, including its 15-ton Egyptian sphinx.

For the past 125 years, the establishment has funded scientific expeditions, which yielded many of the location’s artifacts. It was founded in 1887 by former UPenn provost, William Pepper. Currently, the three floors of exhibits feature findings mainly from ancient Egypt, East Asia, Mesoamerica, the Mediterranean, and the Near East.

The museum has been running Expedition magazine since 1958.

12. The Rosenbach

2010 Delancey St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Phone: 2157321600

This one’s a gem tucked away within the heart of Rittenhouse townhouses. Owned by the Free Library of Philadelphia, this location has a rare assortment of books and manuscripts from notable writers. For example, James Joyce’s handwritten manuscript for Ulysses and Lewis Carroll’s copy of Alice in Wonderland can be found here.

To be exact, there’s over 130,000 manuscripts and 30,000 rare books. Also, there’s 18th century furniture, Persian rugs, and an Egyptian statuary from the 1860s mansion that belonged to the Rosenbachs.

13. Eastern State Penitentiary

2027 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19130
Phone: (215) 236-3300

This location was a functioning jail from 1829 to 1971. It was founded with the Quaker belief that solitary isolation could reform criminals, setting the standard for prison design around the world.

Currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark, the penitentiary’s grand Gothic architecture and “wagon-wheel” floor plan have become notorious. It once imprisoned some of the most infamous criminals in history, such as bank robber Willy Sutton and mob boss Al Capone.

Now, the museum is open for tours year-round and features one of the most popular Halloween attractions in the city.

14. Please Touch Museum

4231 Avenue of the Republic
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19131
Phone: 2155813181

Founded in 1976 by Portia Sperr, this is one of the nation’s most popular children’s museums. Currently housed at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, it has attracted over two million visitors since its opening.

There are six interactive exhibits where kids can play croquet with the Queen and drink tea with the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland. They can also ride a boat down a miniature Delaware River or enjoy nursery rhymes and stories at “Fairytale Garden.” There’s a live theater for interactive, original children’s shows, too.

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Bernie Rodgers

Bernie Rodgers is an English major at the University of Pennsylvania. When he’s not riding his bike home to South Philly, he can be found reading Jack Kerouac or stalking through the Mütter Museum.

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Philadelphia Museum of Art
Franklin Institute
Academy of Natural Sciences
Mütter Museum
National Constitution Center
Barnes Foundation
Rodin Museum
African American Museum in Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
National Museum of Jewish American History
Penn Museum
The Rosenbach
Eastern State Penitentiary
Please Touch Museum